P30-B farm, fishery sector rehab package eyed
The incoming Duterte administration intends to roll out immediately a P30-billion package for the rehabilitation of the agriculture and fisheries sector to help in its recovery from long-standing constraints and the recent El Niño weather phenomenon.
According to Emmanuel F. Piñol, incoming agriculture secretary, the assistance package will mostly come in the form of farm inputs such as fertilizer and seeds.
“This is to be done immediately. I will ask the Department of Finance (as to) where this will be sourced,” Piñol said in a briefing that followed a transitional meeting with outgoing agriculture chief Proceso J. Alcala and other senior officials.
Also, he said he was proposing the creation of a National Food Security Coordinating Council, which would ensure “interconnectivity among all government agencies that are directly and indirectly” involved in agriculture and fisheries.
Piñol said the proposed council would be an umbrella group of agencies that would include not only the bureaus and other entities under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture but also Pag-asa (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) and Project Noah (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) of the Department of Science and Technology.
Further, he said the new DA leadership wanted to expand the country’s rice producing areas by a million hectares.
Data from the Philippine Statistical Authority show that from 2013 to 2015, the total area planted to rice averaged about 4.7 million hectares yearly.
“We are looking at this (achieving the additional million hectares) for the next one and a half years,” Piñol said, adding that success would depend on help from local government units.
He added that the new administration would take a major shift in perspective with respect to the development of irrigation systems.
“Presently, the government is focused on mega dams that, after several years, may remain still not working due to the complicated process of going about such projects—from financing to the actual construction,” Piñol said.
He said the new focus should be on smaller-scale irrigation systems and water pumps.
Even then, the former Cotabato governor said the Duterte administration would build on the gains attained during the leadership of Proceso J. Alcala.
The Aquino administration promised the attainment of self-sufficiency in rice production by 2013, but strong typhoons year after year shot down this ambition.
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